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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 


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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 

Written By: Matt Maranian 


Computer printer (1) 

Computer scanner (1) 

Drill bits (1) 

wood drill bits in 1 1/2". and 3/4". 

Electric drill (1) 
with 1/4" bit. 

Handsaw (1) 
carbon steel. 


Measuring cup (1) 

Mixing bowl (1) 

Pencil (1) 

Sandpaper (1) 
fine grain. 

Whisk (1) 

Plaster of Paris (1) 

Lampshade (1) 

Sketch paper (1) 

Plastic bucket (1) 

Newspaper (1) 

Plastic food containers (1) 
from yogurt, cottage cheese, to-go, or 
food storage: basically anything that 
tapers at the base. 

Threaded lamp pipe (1) 
sized to desired height. 

Lamp cord set (1) 

Locknuts (3) 
1-IP lock nuts. 

Washers (2) 
1" 1-IP washers. 

Socket set (1) 

Wood supports (1) 

of equal size (2) or 2 books covered in 

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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 

paper bags. 

Paintbrush (1) 
or dish towel. 

Spray varnish (1) 
with gloss finish. 

Kilz primer (1) 

White glued) 

Lamp harp (1) 

Flour (1) 


Roger Korman meets Man Ray in this from-scratch assemblage that requires virtually no 
skill. It does, however, require a little vision with respect to overall style and design, as 
much as stacking cottage cheese containers constitutes "design." 

The lamp base is composed of plaster forms cast from plastic food containers. Reusable 
storage containers like Tupperware will offer the most interesting shapes, but yogurt, cottage 
cheese, and sour cream containers will do the trick, too — plus, you need your calcium. 

The human eye makes for a nice, bold graphic, but certainly don't let your options end there 
— any high-contrast image will work for this design. These particular eyes were scanned 
from my vast vintage magazine collection. 

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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 

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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 

First start with a shade you like. It 
will be much, much easier to size 
the lamp to your shade rather than 
the other way around. This how-to 
is created for a shade that requires 
a lamp harp (the wire form on 
which the shade is attached), but a 
clip shade will work just fine too, 
and will allow you to skip a couple 
of the steps. 

When choosing plastic containers 
to cast your forms, you will need to 
consider only 2 things. Thing 1 : 
select containers with smooth walls 
that taper at the base, otherwise 
you will never be able to release 
your mold. Thing 2: the containers 
you choose should create plaster 
forms that stack and invert on each 
other to create a lamp base with a 
nice silhouette. Aside from that, 
choose whatever you want. 

First determine the amount of 
plaster you'll need, based on the 
size and number of plastic 
containers you've chosen as your 
molds; figure that 2 cups of dry 
plaster and 2 cups of water will 
make 2 cups of wet plaster. Pour 
the water into a plastic bucket. Add 
the dry plaster by sprinkling it into 
the water in small quantities, 
whisking constantly to prevent the 
plaster from clumping. A wire 
whisk may seem a little fussy for 
mixing plaster, but it is positively 

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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 

foolproof for a smooth consistency. 

Once the plaster is mixed and 
completely free of any dry clumps, 
pour it into your plastic food 
container molds. Work quickly — 
plaster sets fast. Fill the molds 
about 1/4" to 1/2" shy from the very 
top of the container; this will help 
for an easier mold release once 

Allow the molds to set for an hour. 
Once set, flip each mold and tap 
the lip flat on a tabletop until the set 
plaster form is released. Allow the 
forms to sit in an arid, preferably 
warm spot for a day or more, until 
they become bright white and bone 

Upturn the piece that will serve as the bottom of the lamp base. Using a 1 1/2" paddle bit, 
drill a hole centered on the bottom of the form, about 1" deep. 

Place 2 equal-sized wood supports (or books covered in paper bags) a few inches apart on 
your work surface — this will help prevent your drill bit from hitting the tabletop as it 
passes through the underside of the plaster forms. Place the upturned base piece over the 
wood supports. In the center of the 1 1/2" hole, drill another hole straight through, using the 
^4" bit. 

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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 

• On the side of the base, from a point about 3/4" from the bottom, use the 1/4" bit to drill a 
radius hole straight through to the center of the base, meeting the 1 1/2" center hole. This 
will be the lead for the lamp cord. 

• Drilling one section at a time, use the 3/4" bit to drill a hole straight through the center of 
each plaster form, propped up by the wood supports. 

• Softly smooth any of the rough edges of the forms with sandpaper, and remove all the 
plaster dust with a clean, dry dish towel or dry paintbrush. 

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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 

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• Working in a very, very, very well-ventilated area over newspaper, give each plaster 
section 2 coats of Kilz spray primer (they don't call it Kilz for nothing), allowing the first 
coat to dry before applying the second. If the dried plaster didn't end up looking white and 
fresh, you may want to paint the forms before the next step. 

• The eyes shown here were scanned from the pages of my vast vintage magazine 
collection (download them at ). However, eyes are pretty easy 
to come by. Look for magazines with lots of makeup and hair product advertising, and 
you'll find some good clear eye images. 

• Once you've found a good assortment of high-contrast images of eyes, scan them 
(grayscale). Then flip, enlarge, or reduce to varying sizes, and print on newsprint sketch 
paper cut to 8 V2"x1 1". Cut each of the eyes just outside the actual image area. 

• Combine 1 cup of Elmer's glue, 1/4 cup of flour, and 1 cup of hot water. Mix with a fork or a 
wire whisk until the glue and flour have completely dissolved. Dip each eye into the glue 
mixture, completely submerging each one. Then remove, shake off the excess liquid, and 
apply the eyes to the lamp forms. 

• If your plaster forms have curved walls, allow the printed eyes to soak in the glue for a few 
seconds to really saturate the paper — this will help make the paper mold to a curved 
surface. After applying an eye, gently press it into place with a dry dishtowel. If you are 
working on a curved surface, press firmly and hold for a few seconds. Wipe any excess 
glue from the plaster. Allow the eyes to dry completely. 

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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 

Working in a well -ventilated area over newspaper, coat each plaster form with at least 3 
coats of clear spray varnish. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next 

The only tricky part of this project is choosing the length of the threaded lamp pipe. This 
threaded pipe is sold in the exact same place where you'll find socket sets and lamp cords 
in the hardware store, and it is sold in varying lengths. The threaded pipe should measure 
the same as the overall height of the lamp base, or a little less. If the idea of working out 
these measurements is just too much for you to process, get a pipe much longer than you 
think you will need, and once you've constructed your lamp base, cut the pipe with a 
carbon steel handsaw (it's easy to cut through, really). 

Slide a washer and a locknut over the bottom end of the threaded lamp pipe, and slide the 
pipe through the bottom hole of the base piece. 

Stack the remaining pieces over the pipe, center the stack, and secure the assemblage in 
place by sliding another washer and locknut at the top end, tightening flush against the top 
form, allowing for a 1/2" exposed end of the threaded pipe. 

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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 

Slide the lamp cord through the side lead in the base, pulling most of the length through. 
Continue to draw the end of the lamp cord through the threaded pipe, up through the top 

Slide the lamp harp base onto the pipe first, and secure with another locknut. Next, screw 
down the socket cup. 

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Lamp with a Thousand Eyes 

The lamp cord splits into 2 separate wires — the casing on one wire is smooth, 

and the casing on the other wire is ribbed. 

Take a wire, twist any loose strands tightly together, then loop the wire clockwise around a 
terminal screw, and firmly tighten into place. Connect the wire in the smooth casing to the 
brass terminal screw on the socket, and connect the ribbed wire to the other terminal 

Slide the metal socket shell over the socket until it clicks firmly into place, then connect 
the lamp harp and shade. You're all done! Now place alongside your bed as a reading 
lamp; perch it in a windowsill to scare away noisy magpies; or engage in a championship 
staring contest. 

This project first appeared in CRAFT Volume 03 . pages 90-96. 

This document was last generated on 201 2-1 1 -01 03:27:52 PM. 

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